(Critical Edition of Young Adult Fiction)

Cleopatra lived through events that naturally appeal to many young adult readers. Her history is one of passion, excitement, and bravery. She loved Julius Caesar, the most famous Roman leader and was in Rome when Caesar was assassinated. Her relationship with Marc Antony led to the disastrous naval battle at Actium and the queen’s noble suicide when all was lost. Leighton increases the melodrama by including descriptions of Cleopatra’s narrow escape from Egypt; the horrible death of Pompey, Julius Caesar’s rival, on the shores of Egypt; and Cleopatra’s amazing ability to slip past Ptolemy’s guards to rendezvous with Caesar.

Leighton presents these events in a manner designed to appeal to young adults. For example, she introduces the queen to the reader at the age of eleven. Young Cleopatra shares the concerns of many adolescents: She worries about her relationships with her father and her sisters and brothers, she frets about her appearance, and she shows a fondness for pretty clothes, for her nurse, and for the sea. Young adults will also appreciate the way in which the princess pursues an education against all odds and learns about her kingdom and her people. She matures into a powerful and ambitious queen who loves her own children with great devotion and who gains the admiration of the most important men of her time. Above all, Leighton presents Cleopatra as a woman of immense intelligence, personal self-esteem, and sense of direction. Leighton’s Cleopatra knows exactly what she wants and how to achieve her goals.


(The entire section is 633 words.)